Phoenix's all-year-round good weather and perpetual sunshine may lead you to believe that locals do nothing more than spend their leisure time lazing by the pool with a cocktail in hand. And allthough that might sound rather tempting, new arrivals will be pleased to learn that there is a lot more depth to this desert city, and plenty to see and do.
Phoenix boasts an array of excellent museums and galleries, as well as beautiful gardens and architectural gems. Newcomers keen to explore the great outdoors will find no shortage of things to do in Phoenix as, when it comes to hiking, biking, running and watersports, this city is a dream. Regardless of an individual's lifestyle preferences, there will be something to keep everyone entertained in Phoenix.
Attractions in Phoenix
The Heard Museum
Located in downtown Phoenix, the internationally acclaimed Heard Museum is an eye-opening experience where one can explore the art and cultures of Native American of the Southwest. The museum consists of 11 spacious galleries and stunning courtyards that showcase exhibits of remarkable traditions and contemporary Native American art. This is a must-see attraction for any history buff moving to Phoenix.
Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum is the largest in the Southwest, hosting multiple national and international exhibitions alongside the museum’s permanent collection, which has grown to contain over 17,000 artefacts. In addition to historic pieces, the museum also provides a platform for contemporary artists and photographers. The little ones will be in their element at the PhxArtKIds Gallery and visitors will also have the opportunity to relax in the Dorance Sculpture Garden.
Arizona Science Center
A wonderful space for exploration, education and entertainment, the Arizona Science Center provides a fun day out for visitors of all ages. An architectural masterpiece designed by the renowned Antoine Predock, this landmark is set on the beautiful grounds of Heritage and Science Park. A 140,000-square-foot building is home to a collection of galleries, and terraces provide an environment for learning. Hands-on exhibits, the modern planetarium and the 5-storey giant-screen theatre make for a really engaging and interactive experience.
Musical Instrument Museum
For something out of the ordinary, visit the world’s only museum dedicated to musical instruments, located in downtown Phoenix. The Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, houses over 6,000 musical instruments from across the globe. Through interactive exhibits, visitors can explore foreign cultures through music. The Experience Gallery is a highlight for kids as they can try their hand at making musical instruments as well as having a jam session. The Artist Gallery showcases instruments and memorabilia belonging to influential artists including Elvis Presley, Ravi Shankar and Johnny Cash. The museum is also home to a 300-seater music theatre and an award-winning restaurant called Cafe Allegro.
Located just a stone's throw from the downtown area, Papago Park is an outdoor enthusiast's dream and one of the most easily accessible desert areas in the Phoenix metro. Hike around the stunning red butte formations and take in the view of the park’s iconic Hole-in-the-Rock. Bring those bikes for a family cycle around the grounds. Visitors can also spend a day casting a line into Papago’s well-stocked fishing lagoons. Whatever an individual’s vibe, there is no question that this is a great place to spend some time making the most of the great Phoenix weather.
Opened in 1962, Phoenix Zoo is the largest, privately owned, non-profit zoo in the USA. Set across 125 acres of land in the Papago Park area, the zoo is home to over 1,400 animals and contains miles of walking trails that are well worth exploring. There is a petting zoo along the children’s trail which is always a hit with the little ones. Conservation lies at the heart of the zoo’s mission and it famously played a significant role in the reintroduction of the once almost extinct Arabian Oryx back into the wild. Nowadays, the zoo sanctuary plays host to a wealth of endangered animals.
Desert Botanical Garden
Here is a botanical garden with a difference. Established in 1939 and spanning 140 acres of land, the garden is dedicated to local desert flora. Not only is it home to a collection of over 21,000 plants, but also presents stunning desert vistas. Considering the harsh climate, it may come as a surprise to some that the garden also plays host to an extraordinary number of living creatures – one just needs a sharp eye to spot them. Taking a flashlight tour along the desert trails after dark is a unique experience that is not to be missed.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Officially known as Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden is an unassuming 3.5-acre tea house and garden located in central Phoenix. This oasis of calm provides a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Visitors can admire a beautiful variety of places, relax by the koi pond or view a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Consult the garden’s website for a schedule of cultural events featuring Japanese artists, musicians and food.
This iconic peak is a popular spot for hiking and mountain climbing. Located slap bang in the middle of Phoenix Valley, between Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Camelback treats adventurers to some truly magnificent views. Be sure to take note of the unique flora found on the mountain trail including Saguro Cactus, Palo Verde and the Creosole Bush. There are two trails that take visitors to Camelback’s summit –Echo Canyon and Cholla – the former being considerably steeper, while the latter is longer.
The Grand Canyon
An attraction that needs no introduction. Although, strictly speaking, the Grand Canyon is a four-hour drive from downtown Phoenix, it remains a popular day-trip or weekend getaway for local residents. Carved by the path of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is a staggering sight. While it may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most tourists, Phoenix residents have the opportunity to explore the vast territory of the national park at a more leisurely pace. The Canyon provides ample opportunity for a whole host of outdoor activities including hiking, running and river rafting.
►For an insight into the top annual events read out What's On in Phoenix page
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